20 June 2014

Zen

Image from lifewithhiccups.wordpress.com


I'm not sure if it's the result of establishing a regular(ish) yoga practice or if I've just accepted that there is a lot of stuff going on right now that I straight up cannot control, but I have been very zen lately.  Very "whatever happens will happen."

Someone called it the leaves in a stream theory.  Thoughts, feelings, and actions float down a stream like leaves.  Some leaves will catch your attention.  Maybe you pick some of them up, but most leaves are going to just float on by without any notice.  I feel like I've been doing this lately with thoughts and feelings.  I'll just kind of see "Oh, there's a thought..." and let it go rather than closely examine and dissect it.  It is what it is.

This forgiving, not getting up in the air about things attitude has been especially helpful when it's come to my reading.  I've started several books, but none of them are really holding me.  It's been gloriously hot and humid (I know, whatever, I love this weather!), so I'm thinking "I should read some Southern lit!"  Then I'll start something by Eudora Welty or Thomas Wolfe and just can't get into it for more than a day.  Then I'll think I want to read something set in New York.  That seems to go better, but it's not a guarantee that I'll finish.  French lit keeps pulling on my attention, particularly Colette.  So do biographies, mostly of women that I kind of rather admire (like Colette).  And a little Joan Didion and those Ann Patchett essays.  And those books my uncle's fiancee recommended and she's moving here in a couple of weeks and I just haven't read any of them because I'm just not in a Jane Austen mood and carting around The Portable Dorothy Parker is difficult.  

I know I don't do well trying to read four books at once, so I try to find just that one.  

But here's the thing--I'm not beating myself up over it or giving myself a hard time.

That's a first.  I'm usually frustrated and wanting to throw books around by this point.  Rather, this time, I'm OK with not being thoroughly in the middle of something.  I know that eventually I'll find that book that I *need* to read right now.  Until then I feel like I am making a very good exploration of the books I currently own and am realizing some things about the beauty of and different approaches to prose writing and storytelling.

16 June 2014

Ulysses Readathon



Well, it's finally here--the Bloomsday Readathon.

I was not able to truly readathon because of work and all...but I took off at 12:30 and am dedicating myself to reading/listening to Ulysses until I can't do it anymore.  I have no idea how long that will be.  Much like my pal at Black, White, & Read Books, I am using Bloomsday to rededicate myself to finishing this one.

Below I will periodically check-in and state my progress, mental capabilities, snacks, and whatnot.  Maybe pictures, but probably not because I'm on my Chromebook and my cell phone is all the way over there charging, so...

1:00--I am starting.  I'm on episode 9, which unfortunately is not halfway through the book.  I ate lunch prior to leaving work, so no snacks right now.  I have my trusty water bottle.  I am currently reading from bed because Zach is in the living room and I need my full concentration to listen and read.  I am wondering where my paper copy of the novel is because my iPad has about 50% battery right now...but even if I find my paper copy, will I be able to figure out where the hell I am supposed to be?...OK. Found my book and the spot.  This copy is broken into episodes, but they are not labeled.  The copy of Oyster is not broken into sections and I was going to cry.  Welp, here I go...



3:30--I've been at it for about two and a half hours now.  I say "about" because there was some stalling and a phone call from my mom that was quite important.  Snacks--I had some Greek yogurt, Dorritos, and a couple of gummy twin cherries.  And quite a bit of water.  I have this headache that I'm trying to kick.  I have no idea if the headache is related to the reading or if it's just bad timing.  But I took some drugs, so hopefully the headache will go away soon.

For whatever reason, the audio on episode nine died about 7 minutes into it, so I went ahead and skipped that one.  I've finished episode ten, so yay!  Things are going really well using the physical book and listening to the audio.  I went ahead and marked the start page for the rest of the episode, so I know how many pages I have left.  :)

I will say that episode ten has been my favorite format thus far.  It jumps around and gives vignettes of a bunch of characters, major and minor, showing what they are doing that afternoon.  I liked how it jumped and you say what was going on outside of Leopold and Stephen.

Lastly, I've decided that the reading goes much easier when I imagine Owen Slater throughout the narration because he is yummy and very nice to think about.



(Owen is a character from Boardwalk Empire, in case you don't know)

Honestly, aside from the headache, I am feeling really good.  I am feeling good about myself for hunkering down in bed and reading this super hard book.  I feel like I am really doing something today.  :)

12 June 2014

Ulysses Read-Along--Post 7



(I think this is post seven, at least based on the original schedule of checkins and topics...but does it really matter?)

Welcome back for another totally non-required posting about Ulysses.  How is it going for everyone?  Making good progress?  Thinking you'll be able to complete the book during the readathon on Monday?

This week's topic is:
Writing styles: your favorites, least favorites, how do they work, etc.

OK.  I haven't gotten that far into the book...though I feel like I have been reading forever...so I guess I haven't really gotten too much into the different styles.

Obviously, I've experienced the stream of consciousness style.  I really struggled with Stephen Dedalus's stream of consciousness.  It seemed really opaque.  I am not sure if that is because it was new or whether those three episodes are particularly difficult or what.  But I got into a groove with Leopold Bloom's thoughts.  The audio has really helped with deciphering what is thought, dialogue, and narration.  I don't think I could do it with the audio.

I've only encountered stream of consciousness one other time (in a book that I actually finished; I've seen it in ones I haven't finished, such as Mrs. Dalloway) in The Sound and the Fury and I survived that...but I didn't understand a couple of things until I read the detailed plot summary.  You can go back and re-read this kind of book an infinite amount of times and come away with a new understanding as your thinking evolves over time.  (Though you can say that about almost any book)

Stream of consciousness reminds me a lot of Catch-22, except it's in the first person.  If you've read Catch-22, you know that it jumps around a lot and that some people really hate that book.  In my experience, those that hate it are those who did not follow the logic of the book.  Similarly, Ulysses is difficult to understand if you don't follow the thinking patterns of the characters.  Without reading the episode summaries beforehand, I would definitely miss a lot of the plot sheerly from not thinking like Leopold Bloom thinks.

I do like how overall the stream of consciousness gives the reader a much closer look at the importance of the everyday.  Life is made up of a string of tiny moments that easily go unnoticed when you look at the big picture of your life.

The only other narrative style I've encountered was the newspaper headline one.  I thought those were distracting.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether the headline was supposed to go with the action that followed (kind of like in Frasier) or if it was supposed to just be there.  It felt like sometimes the two matched up, but frequently did not.  Anyone have any insights on that?

My goal is to read six more episodes between today, tomorrow, and the weekend.  That will leave me with the final four episodes (about 11 hours of audiobook) left for Monday's readathon.  I am going to take off work at 12:00 or 12:30 (cannot remember which) and go until I finish.  Zach will be under strict orders to not let me go to bed until I finish the book.  I must be honest about this next thing--I am getting the feelings that Ulysses might be the kind of book that I just cannot review.  Or maybe I won't be able to review it under I eventually someday read The Odyssey and things suddenly make sense.

Oh well.  Feel free to link up your posts--be they on this topic or just your general update about your progress--below.

Have a happy Thursday!

04 June 2014

Ulysses Update




I feel like I finally turned a corner with my reading of this novel.  Initially I hated the book.  Totally hated it.  Maybe not as much as I hated Heart of Darkness, but definite hate.  I couldn't understand what was happening.  Without the Sparknotes and the audio, I would have been utterly lost.  I am in total awe of all of the people who read the book way back in the day before such aids or to people nowadays who read the novel without aids.  The novel reminded me of my darkest days as an English major.  It felt like Joyce was going out of his way to convince you that he was so much smarter than you were and that he couldn't give two shits about your opinion.  I am not the type who likes for everything to be completely spelled out for me.  That insults my intelligence.  I more follow the Hemingway model of the author should give you chunks and you are left to fill in the blanks.  That's my speed.

Anyway, I gave up on understanding what the sam holy hill was going on.  I begrudgingly determined to slay the beast and not let the impenetrability of the novel stop me from crossing it off my list.  And that's how I continued for quite a while.

Then today, I feel like I turned a corner.  I still rely on the episode summaries and the audiobook (which really helps distinguish between what is thought, dialogue, and narration and sets the pace [I am a super slow reader for some reason]).  But I am starting to appreciate more of the novel, which means a lot to me because I was feeling pretty bad about myself for a while there.

I wouldn't say that I have favorite passages or parts or episodes.  But there were parts that I appreciated.  For instance, I appreciated the part where Leopold Bloom was thinking about death.  It was so simple and basic, but interesting to read.  I enjoy his inner monologues a lot more than I enjoy reading about him interacting with other people.  I did not enjoy the Stephen Dedalus episodes.  They were really difficult for me.  Maybe, though, that was because I wasn't yet used to the stream of consciousness style.  Who knows?

Then I saw this post on BookRiot about reading out of your depth and I think that it really kind of summed up my experience since turning that corner.  The writer talks about "feeling dizzy" and "read[ing] the letters but not the words, the words but not the sentences, the sentences but not the structure."  YES!  EXACTLY!  Like the author, I know I am missing things and I know that there are things I don't even know that I am missing.  But, at this point, instead of getting angry and hating the book, I am just going to embrace it and move on.  I can enjoy the parts that I enjoy and just shrug my shoulders over the rest.  I wrote a post over at The Broke and the Bookish recently about some of my reading rules.  I had already acknowledged that I won't like everything that I read...but I hadn't really acknowledged that I won't understand everything I read and that's OK.  In a way, it's kind of freeing.  I can just peruse the book.  I don't have to stress about understanding every single reference (I mean, I had already given up on that when I decided that I would get too bogged down if I used a guide that explained the references, but maybe I hadn't accepted that that meant not understanding everything).  It's kind of a pleasure to be delightfully lost.

At this point, I am looking forward to pressing on and reading more of the novel.  I know that it is about to get interesting because Joyce switches up the delivery.  I think the thing I am most looking forward to, and I have no idea where in the novel it occurs, is the part that focuses on Molly.  I've heard that that episode (or those episodes, I am not sure) are stunningly beautiful.

02 June 2014

(Untitled)

There is so much that I want to write about!  So many posts that have been floating around in my head.  A post about Ulysses.  A post signing me up to read Moby-Dick.  A post about where I've been the past couple of weeks.  A post about how I've really been thinking about this blog and how I feel kind of stunted and want to make changes, but I am not entirely sure which changes I want to make (I definitely want to keep the blog and make it better).  It's funny--not in a haha way--how through blogging I have met some of my absolute favorite people and many of them are moving on from their initial identities as bloggers and blossoming into something else...but I just feel kind of stuck in the past, when I really want to be moving forward too.

I guess the easier post is to write is the personal post.  I can get to the books later, right?

So, Zach was out of town for two and a half weeks.  I missed him so, so much and at times had a really hard time with him being gone.  I was just in a funk and nothing really seemed to help.  I tried to keep busy, so I didn't have to think about him being gone, but that wasn't always easy.  I read quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it wasn't focused reading, so I made a lot of progress on a number of books, but didn't finish anything.  Now I'm working on trying to catch my tail in terms of reading, but am still wanting to read new books.  I need to slow down and focus, I know, before I write another one of those "I am so frustrated with my reading!" posts.

A really good thing, I think, came out of Zach being gone--I worked up the courage to try going to the yoga studio downtown and I absolutely loved it!  I went to a 90 minute heated Ashtanga yoga class because I thought it would be a nice challenge.  I have never sweat so much in my life!  And I played soccer for 9 years.  But it was amazing.  I had to skip a few vinyasas, but I wasn't really winded, so that was good.  I also wasn't super sore afterwards, which was also good.  I know this will sound corny, but I felt radiant afterwards.  All of this tells that I made a good decision.  I just need to keep going twice a week, which isn't really easy because that ties up my evenings (and those are just never long enough to begin with).

I am starting a 30-day yoga challenge.  It's really the culmination of a lot of things.  Honestly, I've been missing yoga.  I like the flow and the peace and how I get to be in my head (but also not in my head).  Then I was reading an issue of Yoga Journal and I saw that the editor was challenging herself to do #yogaeverydamnday in June.  Sign me up!  I want to get that habit started!  I kept gravitating towards yoga related things.  Then I found this new website--doyouyoga.com--and I came across the challenge.  30 days.  20 minutes or less every day.  The instructor is relatable and funny and doesn't take things too seriously.  I appreciate all of that.  I am looking at the challenge as an opportunity to get in the habit of doing something that I love doing.  If I wind up losing a couple of inches in the process or losing some weight or radically changing my life in the process, so be it.  That's just a bonus.

I am also doing the 30-day abs challenge that circulated on Facebook because it looks doable as well.

In addition to my short efforts in the mornings (yoga challenge and abs challenge), I want to do the evening yoga twice a week and add in some walking.  But we'll see.  I have a very busy couple of weeks coming up and I don't want to overwhelm myself.


Food has been a struggle lately.  I'm in that "wanting to eat healthier, but not really sure what that means for my life" phase.  I've been buying food that is healthy, but that I don't really like.  No matter how hard I try, I will never be the girl who likes eating a salad for lunch.  Ditto with sandwiches.  I am kind of a picky eater, so there are not a lot of vegetables that I want.  I eat both breakfast and lunch at my work, but I find that I can either make a good breakfast or a good lunch or neither.  Very rarely do I pull off both.  I need a grab and go routine, but I also need variety otherwise I won't eat what I bring.  It's a weird paradox, I know.  I'm working on it though.

The whole thing is a lot of trial and error.  But the main thing for me is that I don't want to stress.  I want an exercise routine that is forgiving, so if I miss a day or two it's not the end of the world.  I want my diet (as in "normal way of eating") to make me happy and feel good, not feel bad.

I have made progress in the getting healthier arena.  I was able to buy dresses and pants in smaller sizes this weekend and I was ecstatic!  Fortunately, two of those dresses are for my uncle's rehearsal dinner and wedding, so at least I can stop worrying about that.  Now I just need to find shoes.  But my mom and I discusses colors and styles to go with each dress, so I just have to look.  I hate shopping with a purpose though.  That's a guarantee that I will find nothing.  That's a universal law, I think.

I am focusing my efforts on making things less stressful.  I need less stress.  I need simple.  I need fun.  Isn't that what summer is about?  I am at the point where if something or someone causes me stress or unhappiness, I avoid the situation.  I don't want to deal with it, I don't want to fight it.  I just want to focus on easy right now.

And that leads me to my blog.  I don't feel like this space is currently serving me, so I've been avoiding it.  I don't want to get rid of the blog.  But I want to refine and kind of expand the focus.  I love books, to be sure, but I also love cooking and I love having a space to write about my life.  So I am going to be thinking about making some changes.  If anyone has any ideas or tips on how to go about planning a blog (like write about your own experiences), I would love to hear them.

It feels good to get that out there.

15 May 2014

Ulysses Read-Along Post 3



Hello everyone!  We're just starting week 3 of our read-along.  It's not too late to join in if you haven't already.  We're keeping this really low-key, but do want to foster discussion for those who want to discuss while they are reading, so we're coming up with weekly discussion topics.  This week we're looking at any big surprises that you've encountered so far with the novel.

Let's see...

This is my first time with the novel.  I've really struggled with it.  You probably noticed that I didn't post last week on the first impressions topic.  I didn't have anything to say because I hadn't read much of the novel (partly because life has gotten in the way and partly because it was just difficult for me).  I tried.  I did a fair bit of research to see what other people had to say on how they survived.  I tried giving up the guides, like a post recommended, and just jumping in and I'd understand what I understood and the rest would go over my head, but that was OK.  It would also keep me from spending a crazy amount of time looking up every single thing in the guide--I could see how that would bog me down.  Yeah, that didn't work.  Another post said that the first three episodes were super difficult and that some people would jump ahead to episode four, then go back later.  That didn't really work too well for me either because episode four felt just as difficult as episode one.  Then the book just kind of sat for a while on the coffee table and judged me.

My next step, which I think is going to work much better for me, is to listen to the audio book and pick up the novel itself if I'm wanting to go back to a particular passage.  I've heard that some of the episodes are really quite beautiful and accessible, so I can spend the Bloomsday readathon reading selected episodes.  To help with this, I printed off a character list and some basic summaries of the plot.

I know--this has been more about how I've been doing with the novel than with any big surprises.

So here's the big surprise for me so far--how difficult this book is!  I knew it was going to be hard to read and comprehend, but I didn't know it was going to be this hard.  And maybe some of it is that I just haven't been able to relax into reading for a long period yet.

Hopefully next week I can write a less pathetic post...

How about you?  What has surprised you so far about this novel?

Here's the linky!




01 May 2014

Ulysses Readalong Start-up Questionnaire


I am currently equal parts excited and horrified that it's time to start our readalong of Ulysses!  And they have nothing to do with the book!  Where has time gone?

Oh, well!  Quick recap:
Emily from Reading While Female and I are hosting a super laid-back readalong of Ulysses.  We decided the tagline for the event should be No!  There are no sign-up posts.  No mandatory check-ins.  No prizes.  Just reading this book for whatever reason and knowing that other people are reading it at the same time as you.  Each week Emily or I will post an optional discussion question.  If you want to participate in all of the posts, some of the posts, or none of the posts, that is your choice.  We'll have a linky within our posts so you can link your response to it or you can just post a comment to the post.

Today we have an optional start-up questionnaire.  Just for fun.  So we can see who all is participating.

Enjoy!


  • Introduce yourself.  My name is Lori.  I am just finishing up my second master's degree and I'm really not sure what I am doing next yet.  I am from Oklahoma.  I like baseball, cooking, and reading.
  • Have you read Ulysses before? Any other Joyce? Any attempts?  I have not read Ulysses before.  I signed up and immediately failed at a readalong of it this past winter.  I read a few stories from Dubliners in this awful lit class as an undergrad (sucky professors can really ruin a good reading list!), but that's it.
  • Are you feeling nauseous?  Oh, my goodness, yes!
  • Why are you doing this?  At the moment I'm not quite sure.  Seems like a crazy idea.  Previously, though, I wanted to read this book because it is such a big part of our culture and you see references to it all over the place.  Also, it is a big monster of a book and I would like to conquer it.
  • Are you planning to use any guides or resources?  Yes, but I don't remember what they are at the moment...
  • Do you have a reading strategy? Are you sticking to a schedule?  My strategy is to just go for it.  Maybe with a bottle of something strong by my side, along with the guides.  Probably lots of pens, highlighters, and post-its because I am sure I will have questions.  And I imagine having a computer nearby so I can Google things.  I would like to do the three episodes a week so I can finish on Bloomsday, but just finishing at all seems like the main goal right now.
  • What are you most excited about?  I feel like having read Ulysses is a club of really smart and fun people and I want to join that club.
  • What are you most scared of?  I am most afraid that it will be woefully over my head.  I haven't read anything particularly difficult in a while, so I think this will be quite challenging.
  • If this is your first time, what is your impression of the novel going into it?  It's going to be really hard, but really beautiful (at parts) and really worth it.
  • Have you read The Odyssey or seen O Brother, Where Art Thou? before?  I have not read The Odyssey--I struck out at that one.  I did read The Song of Achilles and really enjoyed that.  I have seen O Brother, Where Art Thou?  I love that movie!  I hope the book is kind of like that...